Anxiety, panic disorder, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorders and even post-traumatic stress disorder are all classified as \u201canxiety disorders\u201d by mental health professionals. In order to be diagnosed with one, you must meet certain criteria: the way in which you experience your symptoms must be severe enough, appear often enough and become disruptive enough to be called an anxiety disorder. But what if you\u2019re just \u201cnervous\u201d? How can you get a handle on being nervous and stop it from gaining ground and becoming an anxiety disorder? And more importantly, how can you prevent nervousness from impacting your job, your relationships and your happiness? Anxiety in all its forms, ranging form mild nervousness to severe panic, is an extremely common human experience. Sometimes people find a small amount of this emotion exciting and fun: for example, skydiving as a hobby would involve some level of nervousness, at least the first time. Similarly, watching a suspenseful or scary movie would create some feeling of anxiety, but many people really enjoy this type of entertainment. Here are a few ways to differentiate problematic or potentially diagnosable anxiety disorders from general nervousness: \tAnxiety is typically irrational, meaning that when you are feeling it, you know it makes no sense. You can give a number of reasons you should not be anxious, worried or frightened\u2026 and yet you feel terrified. Nervousness is related to real things you have to deal with: you feel nervous about speaking in front of the board of directors, or awaiting lab test results after the doctor saw \u201csomething\u201d on your X-ray. Nervousness is a sensible reaction to a potentially scary situation. \tAnxiety has a physical component. A panic attack is often mistaken for a heart attack\u2014you get real, intense, sometimes overwhelming and sudden physical symptoms. These symptoms include a racing heart rate, sweating, nausea, etc. Many people go to the emergency room when they are experiencing an acute panic attack\u2014they really believe they are dying. Nervousness is typically not so physical. You might feel some mild stomach discomfort or a slightly faster than normal heart rate, but typically a case of nerves doesn\u2019t impact your entire body the way a panic attack does. \tNervousness ends when the scary event is over. You worry and fret over getting that call back about the job, then the call comes through and you feel relieved or disappointed, but you no longer feel nervous. People struggling with anxiety feel that sickening sense of dread or terror almost every day. It never goes away\u2014it just attaches itself to something new, or it remains generalized or free floating. Ok, So I\u2019m Nervous \u2013 Now What? As common as anxiety disorders are, many people just don\u2019t quite fit into the specific categories of anxiety disorders and really are just plain nervous. Often, this is just a part your personality\u2014some people are more prone to being nervous than others. If you recognize yourself as nervous, and don\u2019t like how much of your time is spent worrying or feeling scared, concerned, or upset, consider the following tips. However, first and foremost, do check in with your doctor and make sure you definitely do not meet criteria for a bona fide anxiety disorder or depression. Sometimes depression shows up with lots of worry and irritability and not so much sadness. Be sure to rule out those mental illnesses before embarking upon a self-care regime! \tListen to that voice in your head. The voice that narrates everything you do and \u201ctalks\u201d you through your day can have a big impact upon how nervous you feel. Even more importantly, it can change. Start by just listening\u2014notice how you talk to yourself. If that self-talk voice is saying things that make you nervous, start questioning it. Ask yourself: do I really need to worry about this now? Is this helpful, important, or positive in any way? If not, then decide what might be more positive and helpful to tell yourself and start substituting that message. At first this might feel a little awkward but with practice it will become as natural to be positive as it was to be negative. \tExercise. I know, you\u2019re groaning. Why is exercise always the suggestion for everything that ails you? I may as well suggest you eat your vegetables next, right? But exercise does help you produce endorphins, which are \u201cfeel good\u201d hormones that really do improve your ability to relax. It can also take you out of your own head for a while, and it is a healthier distraction than watching television or eating sweets. And regular exercise can also shift the balance of other \u201cfeel good\u201d hormones including dopamine and serotonin, both of which are considered important to maintaining an overall positive mood. \tWhile I sound preachy, let\u2019s talk diet. You knew this was coming, right? The only truly stringent diet recommendation I make regarding anxiety and nervousness is to take a critical look at your caffeine intake. Even if you don\u2019t drink 10 cups a day, consider cutting back a little and see if it helps. Caffeine does increase a sense of nervousness. \tDevelop some insight. If you\u2019ve been \u201cwired\u201d to be nervous most of your life, get curious about that. Were you a nervous little kid? Why? Have you grown into a nervous adult partly out of habit? Take a long look at where and how your nervousness began (if you can pinpoint a beginning), and ask yourself if being nervous is still relevant. Maybe it was the best you could do at that time, but now that you are older and have more life experience, you can let it go. A therapist is a great help in this process, especially if you have been spinning your wheels on your own.